For immediate release, July 25, 2017
Contact: Dr. Terri Kennedy, elderdignity@hotmail.com, 212-901-6913

88-year-old African-American Woman Abducted & Isolated from Core Family for 335 Days

PALM COAST, FL – On August 30, 2016, Dr. Lillie S. White, a resident of Palm Coast, Florida, left home with her niece, companion and caregiver of five years, Sheila Kennedy Bryant, in order to go to the doctor and then vote in the local election. She did not leave with a suitcase or the intention of never returning again. Yet, Dr. White was prevented from casting her vote and has not stepped foot in her home since. Like a victim of Nazi Germany, her life and property are being stolen. It has been 335 days — over eleven months — of being sequestered in an undisclosed location with absolutely no contact with her core family, including her only living sibling, 81-year-old Columbia University-trained journalist Janie Sykes-Kennedy. In the meantime, a team of attorneys, including three agents appointed by the Flagler County Court, are billing against Dr. White’s assets. It follows the fraudulent “Litigate, Isolate, Medicate, Steal The Estate” pattern that has been documented across the country.

The court-appointed emergency temporary guardian, Sara Caldwell, Esq. of Daytona Beach, and the court-appointed Attorney ad Litem, Tance Roberts, Esq. of St. Augustine, seized Dr. White from the doctor’s waiting room while Ms. Bryant was in the other room filling out paperwork. It was done with no notice, no hearing, no danger and no emergency. There was an Injunction Motion from Ms. Sykes-Kennedy’s attorney on the desk of Circuit Judge Margaret W. Hudson providing arguments against removing Dr. White — including her express desire to stay in her home and a family support system successfully in place for five years. Instead of waiting for a hearing, Ms. Caldwell and Ms. Roberts “took possession of the body.” Dr. White’s abduction was in violation of her fundamental right under Section 744.3215(1)(f) to remain as independent as possible, including having her preference as to place honored. Yet, this calculated and deceptive move was supported by the court-appointed Guardian ad Litem Sean Bogle, Esq. of Winter Park, and Dr. White’s estranged granddaughter, Lisa Marie Rene of Bowie, Maryland, and her team of attorneys — all working together in a coordinated manner to control Dr. White’s estate. Less than a month later, in a closed hearing, they stripped Dr. White of her two remaining rights — her right to vote and right to choose with whom to socialize. There was no cross-examination of the examiners and no opposing voices allowed. Continuing a pattern of bias against Ms. Sykes-Kennedy, Judge Hudson accepted Ms. Rene’s argument that only “lineal descendants could be in the room” despite Dr. White’s previous testimony questioning Ms. Rene’s paternity and Ms. Rene’s admission in Orange County court that she didn’t really know her grandmother. Even though Ms. Sykes-Kennedy and her daughters had been scheduled to testify, they were blocked from attending. Only Dr. White’s adversaries were present while she was rendered a “non-person.”

This potentially landmark case has been called “the Olympics of guardianship cases” in Florida due to the length of time, the amount of assets and the degree of legal wrangling. It seems to be part of a growing epidemic of senior abuse and financial exploitation that has prompted the current reform process in the U.S. Senate (S.178 Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act). It is effectively human trafficking and racketeering through the Elder Guardianship System in violation of Florida Statutes and possibly federal law (13th & 14th Amendments, Federal Voting Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Hobbs Act, RICO Act). Read the Huffington Post article, “Is Elder Guardianship a New Form of Human Trafficking?” What makes this case poignant is the footage of Dr. White in her own words one month before she was taken (see www.elderdignity.org). It is apparent she is not incapacitated, and her statements go directly against the current actions of the guardian and granddaughter.

Dr. White should never have been in the Elder Guardianship system. From North Carolina, she worked all of her life since she was six years old. She earned a doctorate and had a 30-year career as an educator, including Supervisor of Instruction for public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. She retired to Palm Coast. In 2012, she was independently living her life until family “friend” Chauncey Ford held her in his Winter Garden home for eight months as he filed for plenary guardianship. He lied and said he was a “nephew.” It came out later in court testimony that Dr. White had been medicated. Mr. Ford’s live-in girlfriend is a pharmacist. Instead of trying to save her grandmother, Ms. Rene joined forces with Mr. Ford and put her name on Dr. White’s bank accounts. On September 27, 2012, Dr. White was left alone for the first time and she took it upon herself to escape Mr. Ford’s house by calling 911. The Winter Garden Offense Report states: “The caller said she ‘felt like she was being held against her will.’ White had no medical conditions and did not meet the criteria for the Baker Act at this time.”

At the October 4, 2012 Hearing, Ms. Rene asked the Court to return her grandmother to her “caregiver” (Mr. Ford) knowing that she did not want to be there as evidenced in the Offense Report. Having observed Dr. White in Court, Senior Judge Theotis Bronson of Orange County denied Ms. Rene’s motion and saw no need of guardianship at that time. The case should have ended then, but Ms. Rene persisted. Through a series of actions, Dr. White was kept in the guardianship system. On June 30, 2013, Senior Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. of Orange County named Ms. Sykes-Kennedy as Limited Guardian, and Judge Bronson named her Successor Trustee on September 18, 2013, per Dr. White’s request. After doctor reports stated she had testamentary capacity, Dr. White removed Ms. Rene from her estate plan in 2012 and reaffirmed that decision in 2014 in a new Trust and Will. Ms. Rene challenged both actions even though it was Dr. White’s right as the grantor of a Revocable Living Trust.

This case started with fraud and the exploitation accelerated when it moved to Flagler County in 2015. First, Dr. White was prevented from hiring the attorney of her choice. Through a rapid succession of decisions, Judge Hudson appointed the three court agents. Mr. Bogle’s first motion as Guardian ad Litem was to remove Ms. Sykes-Kennedy despite never having met her. Judge Hudson suspended her as Limited Guardian and Successor Trustee with no due process or evidence of any wrongdoing. Ms. Roberts, as Dr. White’s attorney, threw out a good doctor’s report and pushed to strip away all of her rights. Ms. Caldwell’s first action as temporary guardian was to file a false missing person claim. The July 1, 2016 Sheriff’s Case Report said Ms. Caldwell believed White was “in immanent danger,” that the house was “abandoned” and that she would “be making living arrangements” for Dr. White despite the fact that she had not met her yet or been in her home. This seems to reveal a “one-size-fits-all” plan that had nothing to do with Dr. White’s “best interest.” The Officer wrote he “observed the yard to be freshly mowed… the home to be clean and orderly… White to be in apparent good health. She spoke with me at length… White was not incapacitated… I did not suspect abuse or neglect.” The August 16, 2016 Incident Report stated: “the home was clean, tidy, and all necessities appeared to be taken care of” and “Lillie became upset at the presence of LEO [the Officer] and Tance [Roberts].” Roberts and Caldwell were, in essence, badgering Dr. White.

Recognizing the abuse of some guardians of their authority, the Florida legislature made major changes to the Guardianship Code in the last couple of years. Section 744.361(13) specifically requires a guardian of a person to consider the needs and abilities of the ward, including (a) implementing the least restrictive measures when possible, (b) considering the ward’s express desires, (c) allowing the ward to maintain contact with family unless the guardian believes that such contact may cause harm to the ward, and (d) evaluating the ward’s desires when making residential decisions. Ms. Caldwell has violated all of these requirements and is abusing her powers in violation of Section 744.474(3), Fla.Stat., by not allowing “the ward to maintain contact with family and friends,” and neglecting “initial and ongoing responsibilities.” Ms. Caldwell failed to pay Dr. White’s basic bills while she was living in her home. Due to non-payment, essential services — such as water — were shut off. This constitutes “willful neglect,” yet Judge Hudson appointed Ms. Caldwell as permanent guardian and removed Ms. Sykes-Kennedy altogether in December 2016 due to “illness.” Her blood pressure spiked due to worry about her sister’s life.

Dr. White is the matriarch of a large family with over fifty nieces and nephews, and yet none of them have been able to see her or even know where she is being held. It was recently revealed that Ms. Rene has been allowed to visit despite Dr. White’s multiple objections to her visitation in court testimony previously in Orange County. In a closed hearing, without Ms. Sykes-Kennedy knowing, Judge Hudson voided Dr. White’s 2014 Revocable Living Trust that had removed Ms. Rene. Ms. Caldwell continues to not pay basic bills for Dr. White’s home such as electricity, and has not paid Dr. White’s mortgage for two months. It appears she is trying to force the house into foreclosure. On July 26, 2017, there is a hearing in the Bunnell Court to eject Ms. Sykes-Kennedy and Ms. Bryant from Dr. White’s home making it easier for Ms. Caldwell to liquidate it. All of these actions are happening while there is an Appeal pending in the Fifth District Court. Judge Hudson denied a Stay on the Lower Court activity.

Questions to ask and investigate:

  • Why has Ms. Caldwell blocked visitation of Dr. White by her core family for eleven months?
  • Will the Florida Department of Elder Affairs do anything about Ms. Caldwell’s violations as guardian?
  • How much of Dr. White’s retirement money has been spent down by the court-appointed agents?
  • Why is the Flagler County Court allowing Dr. White’s adversaries to control her life and estate?
  • Who provides oversight if the Judge is complicit in fraud? Will the federal government investigate?
  • Where is Dr. White? Is she still alive? If something happens to her, who is liable?

Dr. White’s family has one primary request: to see Dr. White as soon as possible. Dr. White’s niece, Dr. Terri Kennedy, said, “Studies have shown that ‘aging in place,’ at home, increases a senior’s feeling of independence and dignity. They stole that from Aunt Lillie. The Probate Court of the 1700s was used to uphold the legality of slavery. Let’s not recreate that system through guardianship.” Dr. Kennedy will be attending the 2017 Whistleblower Summit on Civil & Human Rights in DC from July 26 – 28, 2017 and will make herself available for meetings/interviews. More on her can be found at http://terrik.tv.